As we've reported, one of the highlights at Mecum's upcoming classic car auction is to be a four-speed Thunderbolt Fairlane which was featured in Hemming's Muscle Machine magazine back in 2008.
Given the car's vibrant paintwork, it is sure to catch collectors' eyes at the event. But it has a rival in the attention-grabbing stakes. To introduce the car, we must first introduce Bill Thomas.
In an era when American motorsport was brimming with larger-than-life characters, California racer Bill Thomas was a giant.
Founder of Bill Thomas race Cars and creator of the Cheetah road racers famous for taking on Shelby's Cobras, Thomas was a visionary innovator whose talents earned him a direct pipeline to Chevrolet's racing skunkworks, a connection that in 1965 gave Thomas instant access to the factory's new 396/427 CI "porcupine" engines.
To promote the new powerplant, Thomas bought a used 1963 Chevy Nova into which he installed a lightweight tubular front subframe, a straight tube axle, leaf springs and a fiberglass flip front end.
The project served as the prototype for a kit that became popular with the Nova racer who wanted to turn his little Chevy into a drag strip terror, and the finished car became known as the "Novel Nova" after the title of a Hot Rod magazine feature story by tech editor Jim McFarland.
Flash forward to 2008, when Nickey Chicago's expert fabricator John Tinberg, having purchased the car from Nickey owner Stefano Bimbi, set about restoring it to its original configuration as it had appeared in the March 1966 issue of Hot Rod.
Working with Bill Thomas, his son Bill Thomas III, and BTRC employee Don Edmunds, who worked on the original car, Tinberg spent the next ten months on his new project.
The car's sheetmetal was refinished in the original Autumn Gold, and the original front clip was painted in grey primer. Tinberg found a correctly coded engine block, heads, oil pan, Vertex magneto and period-correct Hilborn mechanical fuel injection unit.
He was also fortunate enough to locate the original narrow American Racing magnesium front wheels from a former owner of the Nova, as well as a perfectly preserved NOS set of period correct M&H Racemaster 9.50 X 15 slicks.
John Tinberg unveiled the completed car in front of forty friends and family at his home and again at the First Annual Nickey Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals in November 2009.
All the details are exactly right: the fiberglass front pieces Thomas installed to qualify the Nova as a '65 model; glass trunk lid and doors, plexiglass side and rear windows, Cheetah bucket seats, even the small chips out of the wrinkle-finish paint on the aluminum dash panel!
It will be looking to find an equally loving home at Mecum's auction which runs from May 17-22 in Indianapolis.